By Rahel Solomon

PHILADELPHIA (CBS) –– Students at Philadelphia public schools return to class Tuesday. Superintendent of schools Dr. William Hite recently sat down with Eyewitness News Anchor Rahel Solomon to discuss some of the goals for the academic year.

“We were in fiscal crises,” Dr. Hite said of his arrival to Philadelphia five years ago, adding “we’ve now finished our third year with a small fund balance.”

Among the areas he says he has seen improvement: “We have safer buildings, the climates are different, and discipline referrals are down.” He added “In eight schools we have remodeled all pre-k through 8th grade classrooms, young people are going to return to classrooms that are more conducive to the types of learning environments we want them learning in.”

Dr. Hite said the district is also seeing less students being suspended and more students are reading at grade level. Philadelphia teachers also received a new contract in June 2016 – the first in four years.

He also admitted that there are still areas that need more attention and work.

“Ensuring that all schools have paper towels and toilet paper and dispensers, hydration stations, putting new coats of paints in places,” Dr. Hite said.

Another costly area of repair is the district’s aging infrastructure and buildings, which according to a report last year is said to total into the billions with many buildings over 70 years old.

“It’s important that we’re doing some of this work in all schools but some of the major capital improvement is happening in targeted schools but there are things we’re doing in all schools to improve the environment,” Hite said.

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